Prospect Quarterly: Playoff Preview

The second season will get underway in the CHL this weekend as well as the opening two rounds of the NCAA tournament.

A couple key points to keep in mind: The WHL follows the current NHL divisional playoff format and the OHL follows the previous NHL 1-8 conference seeding.

Any player who finds their team knocked out in the first round of the playoffs will have about a two week window to join the San Antonio Rampage on a try-out agreement. Same goes for any NCAA player who might wish to sign and turn pro this spring. As long as a player doesn’t make it to the Frozen Four they will be available after this weekend. Getting into the lineup in San Antonio is another story but they will likely get brought in for practice at least.

 

WHL: Medicine Hat Tigers (1) vs. Brandon Wheat Kings (WC1) 

The stealth tank worked perfectly for Brandon (40-27-5). They sold off a couple key players at the trade deadline and took a step back but still had enough cushion and push from the remaining players to nab the first wild card spot in the Western Conference. This is important because it gets Brandon out of quite possibly the toughest division in the entire CHL and over to much easier divisional bracket to face Medicine Hat (36-28-8). This is a very evenly matched series in which Brandon prevailed in three of the four matches this season and all went into overtime. Brandon has the capability to go a few rounds into the playoffs if they play to their potential.

It was a remarkable season for Ty Lewis as he started hot following Avalanche camp and didn’t look back finishing the season with exactly 100 points including 44 goals in 70 games. Lewis’ final task in his junior career is to help take this Brandon team as far as they can go. His force and determination will be a big part of any success the team sees.

Best of 7 series begins Friday, March 23rd.

 

WHL: Swift Current Broncos (2) vs. Regina Pats (3)

It was inevitable these two rivals were on a collision course in the playoffs, it just wasn’t known if the conformation would occur in round one. That is indeed the case and while on paper it might look like Swift Current (48-17-7) has the upper hand having taken five out of six regular season meetings, they split the final two contests at the end of the season. Regina (40-25-7) had to load up at the trade deadline to ensure they had a Memorial Cup host quality roster. Swift Current more than matched that effort by nearly cleaning out their entire stable of futures in order to give the best shot to a team having a special season. It is a shame that one of these teams will see their season end in a disappointing first round exit but that’s what the divisional playoff format sets up.

Josh Anderson has enjoyed a bit of a renaissance with the Broncos after his January trade from Prince George . He is still mostly a shut down defensive defenseman but in Swift Current he’s able to jump into the play more and they play a fast uptempo style of offense in which he can contribute by moving the puck quickly into the hands of their elite forwards. Anderson chipped in seven points on each of his teams for a total of 14 points and three goals. Swift Current acquired Anderson just for the playoffs and a long run is where his value could shine.

Nick Henry began his season in early November for Regina but hasn’t yet returned to the form he enjoyed last season following offseason shoulder surgery. He managed to put up 29 points including 14 goals in 53 games. Good news is he has another junior season ahead of him in addition to the playoffs and Memorial Cup where he can make his impact on the game.

Best of 7 series begins Friday, March 23rd.

 

OHL: Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (1) vs. Saginaw Spirit (8)

The Greyhounds (55-7-6) had their seeding basically locked up after Christmas and have been waiting for three months to get on with the playoffs. Saginaw (29-30-9) won one of their meetings in a shootout with the Greyhounds in their eight game season series. That fact doesn’t inspire much confidence even if they played most of those games tough. It will be mildly shocking if the Greyhounds don’t sweep this series, or several of them, on the way to an OHL title and a shot at the Memorial Cup.

Conor Timmins got back into the final couple weeks of action after missing two months with a lower body injury. He arrived back just in time to win best defensive defenseman in the OHL Coaches Poll. Despite the long layoff Timmins still contributed 41 points with eight goals in 36 games. He is a key cog on a dominant team and should enjoy a long fruitful playoff run. Timmins’ big test will be when he enters professional hockey but for now he has a couple more trophies to win.

Best of 7 series begins Friday, March 23rd.

 

OHL: Hamilton Bulldogs (1) vs. Ottawa 67s (8)

The Ottawa 67s (30-29-9) saw improvement under new head coach Andre Tourigny but still found themselves in the eighth seed and as massive underdog going into their first round match with powerhouse Hamilton (43-18-7). The five game season series was swept by Hamilton and they are primed to go on a long playoff run. The odds are stacked against the 67s but they have pulled out several upsets and victories from improbable circumstances before. They should make this a series at least but just don’t have the firepower or experience to get much further.

Travis Barron is looking at possibly captaining his final playoff series before moving on to professional hockey after playing over 250 games in a 67s uniform. He enjoyed a successful season posting career highs with 21 goals and 57 points in 67 games and also as part of a potent top line. Barron is the leader, heart and soul and physical presence for the team and certainly will give it everything he has before leaving Ottawa.

Best of 7 series begins Thursday, March 22nd.

 

NCAA: Cornell (1) vs. Boston University (4)

Saturday, March 24th at 1pm ET on ESPNews

BU (21-13-4) pulled off the near improbable task of needing to win the Hockey East conference title in order to receive a bid into the NCAA tournament. A team that underachieved nearly all season finally saw their veterans, youth and goaltending come together and won the title as the fourth seeded team. Now they face a tough test going up against an old rival in a defensively stingy Cornell (25-5-2) team which is a contrast to their speedy offensive game but if anyone can overcome adversity it is now this BU team. The two teams met once in the regular season with Cornell prevailing 4-3.

Shane Bowers is still flying under the radar in his impressive freshman season with 16 goals and 31 points in 38 games. He’s score or assisted on quite a few game winning goals and holds a sizable role as a second line center already in his young career. Hopefully the spotlight can shine brighter on Bowers on the bigger stage and he can continue to show his excellent potential.

 

NCAA: Notre Dame (1) vs. Michigan Tech (4)

Friday, March 23rd at 3pm ET on ESPN2

A strong team all season just keeps chugging along as one of the favorites to win the national championship in Notre Dame (25-9-2). They won the Big 10 conference title for good measure even if it wasn’t needed to get themselves into the dance. Their brand of stifling defensive hockey coupled with excellent goaltending has Notre Dame as one to watch to make it to the Frozen Four and beyond. They face a surging Michigan Tech (22-16-5) team who had to win the WCHA title to secure their own berth.

Cam Morrison has a knack for stepping up in big moments as he scored the game winning goal in overtime for Notre Dame to take that Big 10 title. Hopefully he can carry that on and enjoy the same success he did last year by scoring in big moments during the NCAA tournament. It’s been a quieter regular season for him with eight goals and 21 points in 36 games.

 

NCAA: Denver (2) vs. Penn State (3)

Saturday, March 24th at 7pm ET on ESPN3 (ap)

Penn State (18-14-5) takes their strong season but early exit in the Big 10 tournament into a duel with the defending champion Denver (22-9-8) fresh off winning the NCHC title. The two faced off in last year’s tournament with Denver prevailing as they went on to grab the title and no doubt a little revenge is on the mind of Penn State.

Denis Smirnov was no stranger to the score sheet this season with 15 goals and 27 points in 29 games. He will look to have that same kind of impact continued in the post season even if he still doesn’t hold a large role as an underclassman.

The second round and regional portion of the NCAA tournament will conclude on Sunday, March 25th.

 

queenjk

Aka tigervixxxen, prospect junkie.

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